Updated: Jul 11
Have you ever looked at a tree and thought, “Hey, that looks geed enough to eat!”? Probably not, but one taste of this delicious syrup, and you may just change your mind.
Are Pine Trees Edible?
Well, since this is a recipe for pine trees, I certainly hope so! But let’s break it down. Pine and its coniferous relatives, spruce, and fir, are all almost entirely edible. Whether or not you want to eat them is a better question. But should you partake of our evergreen friends, you’ll find that they are rich in Vitamins A & C as well as other nutrients. The many edible parts include cones, seeds, needles, pollen, sap, and even the inner and outer bark.
When I was a child, I would spend days harvesting pine nuts with my family, and my uncle would always break off a big ball of sap for me to chew like chewing gum. I couldn’t blow any bubbles with it, but I always found the flavor intriguing.
A Note of Caution
As with any foraged food, make sure that you are 100% positive about your conifer identification before consuming wild trees. Some members of the conifer family are toxic, including Yew and hemlock. These trees contain potentially fatal substances. The best practice is always to be certain you know precisely what you’ve harvested.
What Does Pine Tip Syrup Taste Like?
Pine tip syrup smells like a forest and tastes like maple syrup with delicate little citrusy notes. It adds a lovely woodsy note to chicken and wild game dishes. It makes cocktails and beverages uniquely woodsy, adds a hint of the forest to breakfast pancakes, and you can even use it as a cough syrup. Due to the high content of Vitamin C, antioxidants, flavonoids, and carotenes, fresh spruce, and pine tips can help to strengthen immunity when used regularly.
How to Identify a Pine Tree
Pine trees are“conifers,” and they can be distinguished by a variety of their characteristics, but primarily by the needles and cones.
Like most trees, the first step is to identify the leave, which in confers, are, of course, their needles. On true pine trees, the needles are arranged and attached to the branches in clusters of either two (red pine group), three (yellow pine group), or five (white pine group) needles per cluster. Spruce and fir trees have their needles attached individually to the branches.
All conifers produce cones often referred to as “pinecones,” even on spruce or fir trees. The scales on the cones can be a helpful identifier for various species. True pinecone scales are woody in nature, with a rigid feel. In contrast, spruce cones have thinner scales than pinecones, which gives them a more flexible feel.
In Colorado, we have several native pine species, including ponderosa, lodgepole, piñon (pinyon), southwest white, limber, and bristlecone.
Can I Make Syrup With Other Conifers?
You can make syrup with the tips of almost all other conifers, including Spruce, Fir, and Hemlock (Tsuga species). The exceptions to this are Yew, Taxus, and Hemlock from the Conium and Cicuta species, all of which are toxic. Always be certain of your identification before ingesting any wild plant.
When to Harvest Pine Tips
The key is to harvest the pine tips when they first begin to emerge from their husks in spring. They are bright green, tender, and have a mild citrusy flavor at this stage. Whether harvesting them for this recipe or eating them raw, you’ll always want to harvest them when they are young.
How to Harvest Pine Tips
To harvest, gently pull the bright green tips off the tree. Always use sustainable foraging practices. Never harvest everything from a single tree. And remember to be gentle so as not to damage the branches. Once harvested, remove woody casings from the tips, wash thoroughly, and pat dry before using.
Making Pine Tip Syrup
This recipe, if you can even call it that, could not be simpler, once the pine tips are harvested, it takes more time than effort to complete.
2 cups washed pine tips
2 cups organic brown sugar
Add a layer of pine tips to the bottom of your jar, then add a tightly packed layer of brown sugar. Repeat with pine tips and sugar until the jar is full.
Leave in a warm sunny place where the sun can warm the sugar daily. The warmth of the sun will help prevent mold.
The volume of ingredients will decrease as the spruce tips release their liquid and liquify the sugar. If you have more spruce tips and sugar, feel free to add more layers. This will lower the amount of air in the jar and help to defend against mold.
Keep the jar in the sun for one month or until most of the sugar has liquified. Stir the jars occasionally, pressing the tips down to keep them under the syrup.
After the initial 30-day maceration (aging with sugar), pour and scrape the pine-sugar slush into a pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil to completely dissolve the sugar, then strain, bottle, and store. Discard the spent tips, and thank them for their service.
Over-reducing can cause the syrup to crystallize in the fridge. If this happens, warm it back up and carefully adjust the consistency by adding a touch of water.
Storing the Finished Pine Tip Syrup
For best results, store the finished syrup in the fridge. Or can with water bath canning to preserve for long-term storage. Generally speaking, this is a very stable product that will last in the fridge nearly indefinitely, similar to maple syrup.
Would You Eat a Tree?
How about it? After finding this recipe, are there any plants to eat a tree in your future? If you make this syrup, tell us all about it in the comments bellow. And as always until next time,